By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
I recently came across an article on the International Mission Board website (www.imb.org) by former president Jerry Rankin. The title immediately caught my attention: “Help that Hurts: Considering the Long-Term Cost of Missions Subsidy.”
Rankin observed: “We have made many mistakes over the years of missions work around the world. One of the errors has been trying to accelerate growth by an infusion of financial aid to build churches and support pastors. The result almost invariably was a welfare mentality among the recipients of the support.”
Jerry Rankin understands missions. In addition to serving as president of the IMB for 17 years, he and his wife were missionaries for 23 years prior to that.
His observations make a lot of sense and is applicable to our churches today.
I have been on numerous missions trips where we (team members) fall in love with the people we are ministering to. They become like family. When there is a need, the first inclination is to immediately meet it with financial resources. While that may be appropriate on occasion, it ultimately can do more harm than good if it continues long-term.
Rankin lists several potential problems. Among them: “potential growth is stalled because locals develop a mindset that it cannot be done without funds from an overseas benefactor; the congregation loses a sense of ownership and responsibility since others provide for the financial needs of the pastor or the church; and jealousy often develops among the pastors and churches who do not receive assistance.”
Wise words that are applicable to other parts of church life, including benevolence. If benevolence helps a family or individual through a crisis, that is positive. We are supposed to help those in need. But if benevolence becomes ongoing to that family or person (and I have seen it happen), did the church really help in that case?
Rankin’s observations are wise words from a man whom I respect. Read his column and reflect how it pertains to your ministry or even your life. Sometimes, help that hurts can apply to our own family and friends. Does our help assist in a crisis or enable someone to continue to make the same bad decisions over and over?
It’s worth considering.